Chair wood selection

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Forum topic by Jeremymcon posted 02-18-2017 02:17 AM 570 views 0 times favorited 2 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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363 posts in 1159 days

02-18-2017 02:17 AM

I recently came into a couple big chunks of a walnut tree. Two nice straight pieces each about 3ft long and 12” around. I have wanted to make a chair since I started woodworking, so that’s what I’d like to do with it. I like this design from Peter Galbert:

He used butternut for his seat, white oak for the spindles, and when he fumed it it all turned a similar dark shade.

But if I’m using walnut, how do I deal with the color difference between whatever soft wood I use for the seat, and the walnut of the spindles?

How important is the softer wood seat to the longevity of the chair? Can I get away with making the seat from some dried walnut lumber? I mean, my kitchen chairs are a similar Windsor style up are solid red oak. Seem to be holding up ok.

Any other ideas? I suppose I could stain the seat… I guess I’d prefer to just do all walnut though. I’d love to hear from someone with some experience building chairs like this.

2 replies so far

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4127 days

#1 posted 02-18-2017 03:38 AM

I’ve made chairs. It’s hard.

There are several decent books available
on making chairs. I made a few chairs from
plans in books before designing my own.

View GlenD's profile


7 posts in 947 days

#2 posted 02-18-2017 04:36 PM

Hi Jeremy,

Loren said it straight up “Chairs are hard”, especially as a “one-off”.
Before using that prized walnut build a couple for the front porch out of more forgiving wood.
There are a number of Windsor chair making classes out there.
I’d also avoid mixing air, kiln or green wood.
And if you do mix species I’d also be mindful of wood movement trying to use similar spec’d choices.
I’ve seen but haven’t used thermally treated lumber – could be an interesting option.

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